West Texas cotton prospects look good, with a few exceptions where timely rains missed a field or two or where heavy rains washed out nutrients.

Average yield may not set any records, says National Cotton Council regional representative Rick King, of Lubbock, but abandonment has been extremely low.

King recently conducted a short cotton tour in conjunction with the American Cotton Producers/Cotton Board Joint Summer meeting in Lubbock. Participants toured an oil mill, warehouse, and gin as well as two cotton farms.

Shawn Wade, communications director for Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., backed up King’s assessment of cotton field abandonment throughout the PCG service area. “We’ve lost about 135,000 acres,” Wade said. “That’s less than 3 percent abandonment and the best I can recall before this year was 6 percent. And we could see a lot of 2- to 2.5-bale dryland cotton.”

Robert Lacey, with Pyco Industries, said the operation’s two oil mills likely will process more than 1 million tons of cottonseed from the 2011 crop. “The prospects look good.”

Farmer Paul Kitchens said “most of the crop looks pretty good. Some got waterlogged and some is getting dry.”

He has 173 acres in subsurface drip irrigation. Yields on drip systems typically average more than 3 bales per acre, he said.

Rainfall has been abundant for most of the growing season. April was wet and heavy rain fell over most of the region during the July 4 weekend. “We’ve already had 20 inches of rain and 18 inches is our usual annual rainfall total,” Kitchens said.

Doug Wuensche said his cotton “looks pretty good. On fields with a good rotation history and good fertility we will make two times more than we’ll make where we have cotton after cotton.”
He stays on a sound rotation program with cotton, sunflowers, peanuts and corn. He likes to plant behind peanuts and says he gets a 15 percent to 20 percent yield advantage because of the nitrogen peanuts leave in the soil. “Sometimes I get an advantage for two years,” he said. He has mostly pivot irrigation but keeps “all corners in drip irrigation.”

Barry Evans, who farms near Kress, Texas, said he has “a good cotton crop. We’ve had good rainfall and very little hail. Milo also looks good.”

Mike Hughes, Lamesa, Texas, said his crop needed a rain in mid-August. “But most of it is in good shape.”

Craig Heinrich farms near Slayton, Texas, and said he has some good cotton but “some is late. We need a two-inch rain and a good September.”

King said the area could produce as much as 4 million bales of cotton and if prices hold up “farmers could do really well when all is said and done.”